In early September we interviewed Richard
• How long have you been in the catering industry?
I’m 40 years old now, this is my 27th year in the catering industry so far. I joined the catering industry properly in 1989, in Kidlington serving penny sweets in a tuck shop.
• Where was your previous job before Yarnton Nurseries?
Previously I was Dining Hall Steward & Café Manager at Keble College, one of the largest colleges in Oxford. I was in charge of the dining hall, café, food and drink. We had 500 students for half the year and the other half of the year the dining hall was turned into a conference facility serving up to 3000 delegates weekly. The 320 seater hall turned into a breakfast/lunch/dinner venue outside of term time; 4 weeks at Easter and 17 weeks in the summer.
• What does your job entail at Yarnton Nurseries?
I am a food and beverage manager. This doesn’t just involve the restaurant, it involves overseeing all of the food and beverage buying activity throughout the whole of the garden centre (not including the concessions). I look after the restaurant, and all the staff, the deli and anything food and beverage related, including new projects.
• Do you live locally?
I was born in Kidlington and lived there growing up. Now I live in Combe, near Woodstock which is a 20-minute cycle away from Yarnton Nurseries.
• What do you love about working at the company?
It was very hard indeed leaving the security of the college because it’s quite relaxed and you are given a large holiday entitlement, and Christmas closure, but what attracted me to Yarnton Nurseries was, the chance to have a new challenge, I have no doubts it will be a challenge to start with, but I love all the regulars and the staff as well, I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years now so this is a chance to put my stamp on somewhere and physically make a difference, making changes to improve the overall F&B experience for the customer. The staff and customers are the most important thing, making sure everyone is happy.
What skills do you bring to the company?
I bring the experience of being in the industry for over 25 years. In that time, I’ve covered all bases, I can bake and cook as a chef. I have volunteer baked at Helen and Douglas house for the last 3 years, baking there once a week. I’ve also been a wine trainer, coffee trainer, bar manager, online and restaurant reviewer in the past as well as restaurant manager working in a 2AA Rosette restaurant Assistant Steward of the social club in Kidlington. I like to think I bring a sharp business acumen to the job in terms of the figures and numbers deep down making the job profitable but fun at the same time taking lots of pressure off of the staff.
•What are your hobbies outside of work?
I love cooking at home. I’m a triathlete (even though I have bathophobia and have to swim blind!) I ran every day last year for Helen and Douglas House. For my next challenge, after 2 heart attacks and losing 7 stone is that I am now spending the next 5 years training to be in the team GB triathlon age group squad. I’m 1 year into the training so have another 4 years to go. When I’m not at work I am either cycling, running, swimming or spending time with my partner Charlotte and our dressage horse Quakin Bellini (Bella!)
• Do you have a favourite meal or drink you would recommend having in the Oasis restaurant?
TThe roast is fantastic we have a lot of people who return for that. In terms of food offering the thing, I’d recommend more than the food its self is the cakes and scones which we don’t shout out about compared to some places you go to Billie makes cakes when time permits, but I have a great core of handmade cake suppliers, we also make gluten-free cakes in house as well as our best selling amazing scones!
• What changes are you going to bring to Yarnton Nurseries?
Some will be my own and some from the owners working side by side with Bob. The immediate changes are just to freshen it all up as there hasn’t been anyone responsible for food and beverage in the past. We’ve been lucky enough to have Sarah who use to run the restaurant and Su who looks after customer service, she used to look after some of the food sections. No one was actually dedicated to the food so now it’s a chance for me to really put my stamp on it and look after the food as a whole, being the sole point of contact for suppliers et al.
My first thing was getting the Deli/food hall up and running spending 40-50 hours over the first month to get it up to a suitable standard to make it more of a destination to go to for food orders etc. I don’t want it to be somewhere where customers come to the restaurant to have lunch and go home, I want it to be somewhere where they can have the whole experience of the entire garden centre.
I want to bring a relaxed atmosphere to Yarnton Nurseries, take the pressure off of the staff so they know they can come to me if there are any problems and things will get dealt with quickly and efficiently, so they don’t have to worry.